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After vying for the honey industry's top honours for the past nine years, Otago's honey doyen took out the supreme award in the ApiNZ National Honey Competition this week. The win came on the strength of the boutique apiary's high overall rating across four honey classes, with its specialty creamed clover honey rated best in class.
''We've been entering since the inception of the awards, around nine years. While we've done well, this is the first time we extended our mix to four ranges across light, medium and dark varieties. All seemed to do well with the judges,'' said Mr McCaw.
In the end, Milburn scooped two golds, a silver and a bronze. Three scores counted towards the overall title.
Judges Maureen Conquer, Alessandro Tarentini and Claudine McCormick had the enviable task of tasting and rigorously examining all the entries.
''The quality and quantity of the entries is improving every year, which makes it an absolute pleasure to judge. New Zealand produces some of the finest honeys in the world and we have unique regional varieties that need to be celebrated,'' Ms Conquer said.
Other class winners included Taylor Pass Honey Co, of Blenheim, for the liquid or clear honey class and Kaimai Range Honey, of Tauranga, in the naturally granulated honey class.
Mr McCaw, who considers himself semi-retired, produces about three tonnes of honey annually, from around 200 hives. He attributes the quality of the region's honey to the fact that Otago is still an excellent source of good-quality clover.
''Land use change has definitely had implications for the honey industry. Otago is one of the few places where we can get a pure source of clover for our bees.''
In line with his belief that New Zealand honey is among the world's best, he is considering entering this year's World Beekeeping Awards, to be held at the Apimondia Congress in Montreal in September.
''We produce world-class product, so I'd say we'd have a good chance at vying for the best honey in the world.''
Other ApiNZ award winners were:
Veritaxa and Analytica Laboratories, which won the Roy Paterson Trophy for innovation in beekeeping for its classifynder system, which uses robotics, image processing and neural network technology to count and classify microscopic objects such as pollen grains.
Pike Stahlmann-Brown, of Landcare Research, who won the ApiNZ Peter Molan Award for excellence in apiculture science.
Garry Glasson, of Glasson Apiary, on the West Coast, who won the ApiNZ National Photography Competition.
ApiNZ chief executive Karin Kos said the awards were a chance to celebrate both the high-quality products and leading work being done by those in the apiculture industry.
''This is a hardworking industry committed to excellence. This conference has been a fantastic opportunity for our industry to get together and talk about our challenges and successes and plan for a strong future.''
-By Brent Melville